ESPN.com has taken on the herculean task of ranking the top 100 players in college football entering the 2014 season. These are based on expected contributions for the 2014 season, regardless of position.
Make sure to track the rankings all week long, as there will be Big Ten players in all five days.
Three Big Ten players made the first installment:
T-83: Michigan LB Jake Ryan
T-97: Iowa DT Carl Davis
T-99: Michigan State LB Taiwan Jones
We have one player (Ryan) who has shown the ability to be one of the elite at his position, along with two others (Davis and Jones) who are here largely on potential. If Ryan stays healthy and builds on the form he showed in 2012 -- he earned second-team All-Big Ten honors and recorded 16.5 tackles for loss and four forced fumbles -- he could easily finish among the top 50 players.
Davis is another player with a chance to rise much higher on the postseason list. He brings a rare mixture of size and athleticism to Iowa's interior defensive line, the team's strongest group in 2014. Davis has shown only flashes of what he could become, but if he puts it all together he'll be in the mix for major awards and most likely a good spot in the 2015 NFL draft.
Jones' inclusion in the top 100 comes as a bit of a surprise as fellow linebackers Max Bullough and Denicos Allen overshadowed him in 2013. He steps into a featured role this fall, taking over for Bullough at the middle linebacker spot. Jones definitely will get noticed for his play, good or bad, as MSU tries to remain one of the nation's elite defenses.
I have no major gripe with any of these selections, as all three defenders have talent but must prove more to rise into the nation's upper crust.
Several Big Ten players just missed the cut for the top 100, including Michigan cornerback Blake Countess, Wisconsin offensive tackle Rob Havenstein, Nebraska wide receiver Kenny Bell and Michigan State offensive tackle Jack Conklin. You can certainly make a good case for Countess, a first-team All-Big Ten selection in 2013 who led the league with six interceptions, to be among the top 100. I also expect big things from Conklin, who started 13 games as a redshirt freshman last fall.
Coming Tuesday: Nos. 80-61.